My husband and I are currently working on a slightly crazy goal of paying off $117,000 of student loan debt in just three years. Our combined gross income is in the mid to high five figures, so it’s not like we’re rolling in the dough. That means that in order to accomplish our lofty goal, we need to scrimp as much as possible. Fortunately, we have found ways to save $25,000 per year.
No cable – $360/year
We never watch cable. My husband and I live with my parents (who have cable), and the two of us haven’t it used it a single time. My parents pay for it, so we could use it if we wanted to, but neither of us like watching regular TV. Once we buy our own house, we won’t be wasting hundreds of dollars on cable TV that we don’t even watch. We currently have a Netflix subscription, which is worth every penny of the $8 we pay for it every month.
No shopping for non-necessities – $500/year
When we started our three year plan to get out of debt, I implemented a three year spending ban for myself. (For those who have asked, no, my husband is not also on this three year spending ban. He has drastically reduced his spending, but he does occasionally purchase non-essential items).
I’ve never been one to go on crazy shopping sprees. The main things I’ve cut back on are buying new work clothes (luckily, I have plenty of work clothes thanks to my grandmother-in-law’s generous Christmas gifts this year), books (I get ALL of my books at the library or from my mom who buys them at garage sales), and photo albums/photo prints.
No fancy gym membership – $800/year (based on a $50/month membership with a $200 sign up fee)
I honestly cannot believe how expensive some gyms are. I work for a fitness company that charges very affordable membership rates, so I can tell you that there is no reason why a gym membership should cost $75/month. If you are paying that much for a gym membership, you are getting ripped off. I don’t care how nice your gym is. You’re being ripped off.
If having a gym membership is important to you, find a cheaper gym. There are gyms that charge $20/month. You can get just as good of a workout at a more affordable gym. Some other (free) options include using your corporate gym at work (I do this all the time!), exercising outside, or working out at home.
No upscale salon visits – $1,000/year
I cringe when I see this number, especially because it’s probably actually a conservative estimate of how much I used to spend on salon visits each year. I used to get my hair cut and colored at a very, very expensive salon every 3 months, and I would get occasional $40 manicures (that doesn’t even include the tip) and $30 eyebrow waxes on my birthday or just as a “treat” to myself.
It’s more than a little ridiculous to think that I used to spend $200 on hair appointments when my husband and I were six figures in debt. Sure, my hair looked amazing, but being debt-free is way more important than having nice hair. I can accept having ugly hair (my natural hair color is dishwater blonde) for a few years if it helps us to pay off our debt.
Complete spending ban on outings with friends – $1,200/year
Prior to starting the debt snowball on our student loans, my husband and I spent way too much on outings with friends. We never went to fancy restaurants or racked up hundreds of dollars on drinks at bars, but the little things add up too, like:
- $50 for a marathon (“But it’s for a good cause and it’s great exercise” was always my excuse. Guess what? There are free marathons where they encourage you to donate but don’t require you to spend $50).
- $20 for dinner at an “affordable” restaurant (it may be “only” $20 but that $20 could go to my student loans).
- $25 for rock climbing (Again, I went with the “it’s great exercise” excuse. Free yoga is great exercise too. So is hiking. So is going for walk. And those activities don’t cost a thing.)
Not going to Starbucks every day – $1,500/year
We could save more on this one if I could convince my husband to cut Starbucks out of his routine entirely, but that’s a never ending battle. He’s addicted to Starbucks. Luckily, he is willing to use our Keurig (which we received as a wedding gift) to make his chai tea some days, just not every day. Making chai tea at home costs less than $1, whereas Starbucks charges over $5 for a venti soy chai tea latte.
Driving old cars – $5,000/year
My car is 16 years old and my husband’s car has nearly 200,000 miles on it. Our cars are what most people would consider “embarrassing” – they make a lot of cranking, squeaking, and rattling noises. We both plan to continue driving these cars as long as possible. Why? Because both cars are paid off and not having any car payments is awesome. We also save quite a bit on car insurance and tabs because our cars are so old.
Living with my parents – $15,000/year
Obviously, this is the biggest way we save money. If it weren’t for my parents allowing us to live with them for only $150/month, we would never be able to pay off our mountains of debt in just three years. We live in an expensive area, and even a studio apartment would cost over $800/month for rent alone. (That does not include utilities or any other expenses associated with living in an apartment).